Saturday, 11 October 2008

Assyrian Christians Suffer Persecution in Iraq

Damian Thompson posts a good piece today highlighting the persecution of the Assyrian Christians of Iraq. One comment came from Lorenzo who helpfully explains that "the Ancient Church of the East -- the Assyrian Church -- is the oldest church in Iraq. It became regarded as Nestorian in tradition because its theology was similar to that of the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius. The Nestorian center, Seleucia-Ctesiphon near Baghdad, was at one time the most important patriarchate beyond the borders of the Roman empire and was largely responsible for the early extension of the Christian faith to other parts of the Middle East and Asia."

Assyrian Christians - members of a Church so ancient that it still speaks Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ - will demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy in London tomorrow (Sunday) against a sneaky change to the law of Iraq that will hasten their extinction.

Arab Muslims, it seems, simply cannot bear the idea that Christian communities far older than Islam should remain in the Middle East. So we shouldn't be surprised that, on September 24, the Iraqi Parliament removed Article 50 of the provincial elections law guaranteeing reserved seats for vulnerable minorities, including Assyrians.

The expulsion and suppression of the indigenous Christians of the lands of the Bible is one of the tragedies of our age. And it's a disgrace. Let's list the powerful forces that, even if they are not actively conspiring to make it happen, seem perfectly willing to sit back and watch.

First and foremost, Arab governments and the Muslim ideologues who dictate their actions: Mohammed didn't want Christians polluting sacred land and neither do they. The United States: the only Christians American Protestants care about are "Bible-believing" evangelicals who support Israel, not the apostolic Churches founded by Jesus's original followers. And, yes, Israel: please don't tell me that it gives a monkey's about ancient Christian communities.

So the Assyrians have the cards stacked against them. And, daily, they are humiliated by their Muslim persecutors. Now they won't have elected politicians to represent them in Iraq, only people who hate them.

No wonder the Assyrian Society of the United Kingdom is protesting. To be precise, it is demonstrating to reinstate Article 50 at the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, 9 Holland Villas Road, London W14 8BP, at 2pm on Sunday. I wonder if any indigenous London Christians can be bothered to join them.

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